”The first reaction is usually astonishment”, chuckles Outokumpu’s Vice President of Sustainability and Environment Juha Ylimaunu. He is referring to the first impression the Tornio stainless steel mill in Finland makes on visitors. The abundance and purity of the surrounding nature tends to catch most visitors off guard.
“But it’s the sight of all the fishermen, both amateur and professional, casting and setting their nets in the waters just off our mill that really gets them”, Ylimaunu continues. “The fact that we are based right here on the delta of Tornio River, the largest and one of the most important salmon rivers in Europe never ceases to amaze them.”
Before Outokumpu, fishing was one of the main industries in this Nordic area. The seasonal flux of salmon has been a driver for prosperity as well as even the survival of the local population in hard times.
Today it still represents a major economic enterprise, as well as serving as an important natural reserve for locals – many of whom express an exceptional love for harvesting and protecting the abundant yield of the river – throughout the seasons. “The unique Tornio River valley ecosystem is really the soulscape for many of us who have grown up in the area,” explains Maija Mehtälä, an Environmental Engineer at Outokumpu Tornio.
The catch is not limited to just salmon, either. Especially in the wintertime, as the waters facing the plant freeze over, the stream of ice-fishermen seems endless. Pike, perch and many other fish species constitute the core of the catch and make for a wonderful, natural and healthy supplement for hundreds of dinner tables throughout the community.
A healthy population of Baltic seals shares these perks with the locals, creating a bit of jealousy, but with annual runs peaking at almost 100.000 salmon migrating to and from the sea along the Tornio River, there is plenty for all.
“Outokumpu has long roots in the Tornio area and as the leading employer and major economic force in the area we are proud of the pristine nature,” says Ylimaunu.
“We feel that it is our inherent responsibility to maintain and constantly try to improve the health and sustainability of our community. Our commitment as a company to constantly lower our carbon footprint as well as our dedication to become a carbon neutral company by 2050 are real. And we are especially proud of the Tornio stainless steel mill leading both developments within the company and even the stainless steel industry. It is another concrete example of how we are working towards a world that lasts forever”.